Goal line help for referees – at last

Just over a fortnight ago, I was asked what had happened to goal line technology. After the fuss made about it when the International FA Board agreed that it could be used after FIFA withdrew its previous opposition, everything my enquirer said, seems to have gone quiet. Well all that has changed. In fact after the decision was made there was a lot of behind the scenes activity. FIFA set some very strict rules laying down what any technology had to be capable of and then there was a comprehensive tendering process. Thirteen companies said their equipment could provide the answer to the question ‘did the ball cross the line’ but they had to prove it to an independent test institute. In the end the thirteen were whittled down to two. One of these was Goalref a German company and the other Hawkeye, known to tennis fans for providing vital decisions at Wimbledon.
Since I was asked the question of course there have been two major announcements. First, FIFA, who through Sepp Blatter promised it would be in use for the 2014 World cup have selected GoalControl GmbH, a German company which was not one of the two originally approved. Their system uses 14 high speed cameras placed around the pitch. All four companies now approved met the stringent technical requirements of FIFA but the decision was based on criteria relating more specifically to Brazil and the ability to adapt to local conditions.
Then we heard of the agreement last week from the Premier League that goal line technology would be installed at all Premier League grounds in time for next season. They have patriotically chosen the British company Hawkeye, who also use a camera based system. Some people have questioned the cost, which I believe is in the region of £250K, but let’s face it, that’s a week’s wages for Wayne Rooney so surely the clubs an afford it. But is it value for money? In other words, how many debatable goal line incidents are there? At the Madejski Stadium this season there have been just two, one against Manchester United and another against Southampton but the stakes are so high in football today that it must be seen as a reasonable investment.
As is well known, Marcel Platini, UEFA President is totally opposed to technology in any form being used so don’t expect it in the Champions or Europa Leagues. He favours of course two additional assistant referees, which proved in the England/Ukraine Euro 2012 cup to be unreliable for goal line decisions. What were the tough conditions that FIFA laid down? First, it had to be accurate and second it had to be transmitted to the referee (and no one else) within one second. It is then up to the referee to decide whether to give a goal. This preserves the referees’ authority in the Laws of the Game, which state ‘the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal has been scored are final’. Also of course, just because the ball has crossed the line into the goal does not necessarily mean a goal has been scored. The law says this is ‘providing there is no infringement of the laws of the game by the team scoring the goal’. So there’s still a decision to be made.
Will this lead to more technology in the game? It is often demanded for offside but that is an entirely different proposition. There are many factors to consider and not something that can be done with a bleep to the referee’s receiver. It could only be done with a viewing of television replays by someone else and waiting for decisions creating delays, which spectators would not appreciate.

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